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Amy Mayer / Harvest Public Media

Controversial federal rules that would change the production of organic meat may not be finalized before President Barack Obama leaves office, leaving open the possibility that they may never go into effect.

The proposed rules -- currently awaiting White House review -- would create new standards and clarify other regulations regarding how livestock are treated on certified organic farms.

In an effort to tighten animal welfare guidelines for organic producers, these rules mostly focus on livestock and poultry living conditions, veterinary health care practices on farms, and handling, transport and slaughter of livestock.

Fred Knapp / Harvest Public Media

A proposal that would jumpstart the chicken business in Nebraska has some residents concerned about the potential impact on the environment and are trying to block or delay its construction.

Costco, the warehouse retailer and grocery chain, plans to build a giant $300 million chicken slaughterhouse on the south side of the town of Fremont in eastern Nebraska.

To make sure the plant is humming year-round, Costco wants new farms around Fremont to raise 17 million chickens every year. As of the 2012 Census of Agriculture, there were less than 1 million broilers - chickens raised for meat - in the whole state.

University of Colorado, Boulder Leeds School of Business

Richard Wobbekind has seen decades of change in Colorado, from huge population booms to agricultural busts. As lead economist on the annual Leeds School of Business economic forecast, he and his team pour over data and statistical models to try and suss out how the state’s economy may change in the New Year.

The comprehensive report covers everything from housing costs to molybdenum mining (Colorado is the top producer in the country), but here is what you need to know for 2017.

Colorado-Based Meat Industry Giant JBS To Go Public

Dec 6, 2016
Stephanie Paige Ogburn / KUNC

JBS USA, a major Northern Colorado employer and big player in the country’s agricultural economy, is going public.

Its Brazilian parent company, JBS SA, spun off a new entity for its foreign holdings called JBS Foods International, based in the Netherlands. JBS announced on Dec. 5 that it’s planning on selling shares of the new Dutch company on the New York Stock Exchange in the first half of 2017.

Officials at JBS have yet to disclose how large a stake of the company will be sold.

Pat Blank / Harvest Public Media

There is a battle going on in the organic industry over hydroponics, the technique of growing plants without soil. The debate gets at the very heart of what it means to be “organic” and may change the organic food available to grocery store shoppers.

To be labeled as organic, fruits and vegetables are required to be grown without genetic modification or synthetic chemicals, and to meet other rules set out by the Agriculture Department. But what about produce that isn’t grown in the dirt?  

Luke Runyon / KUNC/Harvest Public Media

Crops genetically-engineered to withstand certain pesticides have a short shelf-life in Boulder County, Colorado.

The county’s commissioners voted Wednesday to ban growing genetically engineered crops on county open space. The decision does not apply to privately-owned farmland.

The vote puts in place a transition plan to remove GMO corn and sugar beets -- the only GMO crops grown locally on open space land -- from public land within the next 5 years. 

Luke Runyon / KUNC/Harvest Public Media

Colorado agriculture officials are taking steps to make industrial hemp -- marijuana’s agrarian cousin  -- more mainstream. They’ve certified three hemp seed varieties, becoming the first state in the country to do so.

A seed certification is akin to a stamp of approval, letting farmers know the plant performs well in Colorado’s soil and climate.

The certification also ensures that farmers won’t break federal law by cultivating plants above the legal threshold for THC, the psychoactive compound found in cannabis. Hemp that tests above a concentration of 0.3 percent THC must be destroyed, according to state rules. That threshold was set in the 2014 Farm Bill.

David Anderson

The fall of 2013 did not seem like a great time to buy a small candy store in Estes Park. The town’s economy was in iffy shape. Flooding had decimated roads into and out of the mountain community. Internet and cellphone service, not to mention grocery delivery, were out for days.

Right after the flood, Mark and Kelly Igel took the plunge and bought the Taffy Shop - and the secret recipe from the retiring original owner. They were betting that people would still come to the tourism-dependent town on the eastern edge of Rocky Mountain National Park for a piece of old-fashioned candy and charm.

“We’ve lived here for years,” Mark Igel said. “We knew the town would bounce back.”

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

The Great Recession decimated the American economy more than eight years ago. And while many of America’s cities have crawled back to modest economic prosperity, the rural economy has stagnated, displaying few bright spots in employment and poverty rates.

In short: rural parts of the country are still struggling.

Rural America at a Glance 2016, an annual report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture,  underlines the economic distress many rural residents, and voters, have felt since the Great Recession. It also reiterates the idea that increased rural turnout for Donald Trump tipped the scales in the 2016 presidential election. 

How Would Clinton, Trump Support Family Farms?

Nov 3, 2016
Abby Wendle / Harvest Public Media

In this series, Harvest Public Media reporters attempt answer your questions about the 2016 presidential election.

We received many questions about the role of farmers in crafting the policies that affect our food system.

William Powers of Ceresco, Nebraska asked: How can farmers, both young/beginning & established, have a seat at the table so to speak, in regards to policy decisions and other issues relating to food and farming.

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